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This very dry country is running out of food!5 min read

April 21, 2022 4 min read

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This very dry country is running out of food!5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is the country of Somalia, located in the East of Africa. It is a democratic republic situated in the Horn of Africa.

Political map of Somalia. Photo: iStock

Owliver’s Obscure Observations
The Horn of Africa takes its name from the horn-shaped land formation that forms the easternmost point of the African continent, projecting into the Indian Ocean south of the Arabian Peninsula.

Now Somalia is quite a hot and dry place, owing to its proximity to the equator. While it does tend to rain in Somalia, the last few decades have seen little to no rain, leading to a severe drought in the Horn of Africa.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations
A drought is a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water.

Owing to these tough weather conditions, millions in Somalia face a looming famine, the United Nations has said. A famine occurs when there is an extreme scarcity of food.

Neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya have also been hit. The World Food Program, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the humanitarian agency OCHA and UNICEF have said that growing needs are rapidly overtaking available aid. “We are literally about to start taking food from the hungry to feed the starving,” said  El-Khidir Daloum, the UN World Food Program’s Somalia representative. “Millions of lives are at stake.”

What’s happening in Somalia?

Children collect water in Somalia. Photo: Save the Children

Livestock are dying and crops are withering away amid this terrible situation, with three consecutive years of little to no rainfall. The war between Russia and Ukraine have also made matters worse for Somalia, which imports almost all of its wheat from these countries.

“We face a real risk of a repeat of the 2011 famine situation, which claimed the lives of a quarter of million people, half [of them] children,” said Mohamed Ahmed, director of programme operations in Somalia for Save the Children. “This will be a reality if we don’t act now.” 

Analysis from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification system (IPC) suggests that 4.1 million people, roughly a quarter of Somalia’s population, are facing severe hunger. Roughly 44% of children under five years are malnourished.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations
When do you call someone malnourished? It is when that individual is supplied with less than the minimum or an unbalanced amount of the nutrients or foods essential for proper health and growth.

Meanwhile, around 7,00,000 people have already been displaced, having been forced to leave their homes in search of food and water. These people live in makeshift, temporary camps (shown in the picture below) as they wander through tough terrain and weather conditions.

People of Somalia are forced to leave their homes in search of water and water. Photo: Al Jazeera

In 2017, East Africa endured another severe drought, but early humanitarian action ensured there was no famine situation in Somalia.

The funding problem

World Health Organization sends medicines to Somalia via a place shipment. Photo: WHO

The World Food Programme – which received 53% of its food for Somalia via Ukraine last year – is currently facing a funding gap of $200 million. A funding gap is the difference between the money required to start or continue on a project, in this case helping Somalia, and the amount of money that is currently accessible. And, with prices of food and fuel rapidly rising, even the money that was previously set aside for Somalia will not go as far. 

Officials say that if there isn’t a change in the funding situation soon, WFP will have to make some tough choices, such as deciding which vulnerable groups have to be prioritised for assistance.

Other NGOs, including Action Against Hunger, Medair and Save the Children, said their programmes were also finding it hard to help the country and its people.

Other factors…

While the crisis in Somalia is largely driven by a drought across the Horn of Africa, it has been made worse by the Covid pandemic and desert locusts swarms, which ravaged whatever harvest was there. 

This flying insect is known as the desert locust. It can destroy crops, like what happened in Somalia. Photo: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

There have also been some political issues. The ongoing elections and a challenging security situation haven’t helped the country. Large parts of the country are not accessible to aid organisations because of strife in those areas.

There are also concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make things worse, driving up prices of fuel and food. Locals say costs have already jumped by 50% in some parts!

What’s next for this dry country?

Unfortunately, weather forecasts suggest there is little chance of relief soon in the form of rain. According to the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), the upcoming wet season is unlikely to bring much rain.


Sources: The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Down to Earth, BBC

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